SAN FRANCISCO - There may soon be a faster, clean way to get around the San Francisco Bay aboard a high-speed, high-tech water taxi.
Alameda-based maritime company, Navier, is building boats with an ambitious plan to transform and expand ride-sharing services.
The startup’s line of electric-powered hydrofoil vessels aims to be an on-demand solution to passenger ferries and other public transportation.
"Our goal is to really make the waterways a highway and really to buildout the mobility on the water," said Sam Seder, Navier Boat head of operations. "As a pilot, as a captain, as a boater, this is a world-changing experience type of technology."
With two twin electric engines running on battery power, the Navier’s N30 is capable of traveling roughly 86 miles on a single charge and can reach speeds up to 35 miles per hour.
Once the boat gets up to speed the hull lifts above the water nearly four feet.
"This is truly a plane. This is a flying boat," Seder said. "We have three wings in the water."
Two of Navier’s boats took flight during the recent international sailing competition in San Francisco providing rides and demonstrations. In the coming weeks, the company plans to launch a pilot water taxi service between Bay Area cities.
"Why be sitting in your car for an hour in your morning commute to work and be grumpy when you can have a pleasant ride on the bay and go to your end point in the fraction of the time," Navier founder and CEO Sampriti Bhattacharyya said. "That’s the world we really hope to create and unlock."
Bhattacharyya saw autonomous cars and air taxis and thought there were opportunities to transport people to places quickly across the water.
Within a year and a half, Navier had its first two vessels manufactured, tested and on the water. It plans to build dozens more by next year.
"When you’re an aerospace engineer and a maritime engineer and a roboticist – it all comes together and that was the magic of this boat," she said. "It’s a dream."
The boat combines hydrofoil technology, rechargeable batteries and computer software resulting in an easily maneuverable boat that can move sideways, rotate in place or dock with the use of a joystick.
Once it is up above the water on the three foils, it’s a quiet, smooth ride even in rough, choppy water up to four feet.
Up to six people will be able to ride on the water taxis in addition to a captain and crew member. Several cities are already on board with the concept, Seder said.
"The best customer is my dog, Taco, because she sits on the front of the boat," he said. "There’s no other boat in the world where you could have a little 20-pound dog going through 2-foot chop."
Cost, speed and convenience have been deterrents to water taxis of the past.
But Navier plans to release a platform similar to other rideshare services and also have similar prices.
"We want to be affordable," Bhattacharyya said. "We want to see shuttles go from Berkeley to Redwood City making the waterways accessible one boat at a time and hopefully a dozen next year and scale up from there."